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Human rights groups condemn Shavendra Silva's appointment to UN

A coalition of human rights groups have condemned the appointment of Sri Lanka's former military general, Shavendra Silva, to the Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations, as "outrageous on many levels".

In a joint statement from Washington, released just before the appointment was announced, SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, the Center for Justice and Accountability and the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that such an appointment "would send an appalling message to the world: accused war criminals are legitimate authorities on peace."

Highlighting the Sri Lankan military's shocking record of abuses and sexual violence whilst being UN peace-keeping forces in Haiti, the rights groups called on the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, "to reject or rescind" any such proposal "in the interest of human rights, justice and accountability".

The appointment was made despite overwhelming calls for an independent investigation into Silva's role in the conflict.

In November of last year, ten international human rights organisations, including those mentioned above, urged the UN to suspend the diplomatic credentials of Silva as Sri Lanka's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN.

The groups included: SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, Center for Constitutional Rights, Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, Human Rights USA, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, TRIAL, Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, Society for Threatened Peoples.

Shavendra Silva is also facing a lawsuit filed against him by the American University College of Law's UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic, for allegedly perpetrating and orchestrating war crimes during the final stages for the conflict. 
 
The full text of the statement, dated 27 Jan 2012, is reproduced below:

Sri Lankan and international news outlets have reported that Shavendra Silva—a former military general in the Sri Lankan army who stands accused of war crimes and torture—has been selected for a position in U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations. 

This appointment is outrageous on many levels, according to a coalition of human rights groups including SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative, the UNROW Human Rights Impact Litigation Clinic at American University Washington College of Law, the Center for Justice and Accountability and the Center for Constitutional Rights.  Silva played a central role in the Sri Lankan Army’s brutal military campaign against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which caused up to 40,000 civilian deaths and incalculable suffering, and violated fundamental principles of international humanitarian and human rights law

While the Sri Lankan government has proclaimed its success in carrying out a “humanitarian operation” during the armed conflict, a U.N. Panel of Experts appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon concluded that there are credible allegations that the Sri Lankan Army committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.  The Panel of Experts report, submitted to the Secretary General on April 12, 2011, discusses the responsibility of the battalion that Silva commanded – the 58th Division of the Sri Lankan Army – in these allegations.

Silva’s appointment is also inappropriate in light of Sri Lanka’s record in U.N. peacekeeping operations.  In 2007, Sri Lankan peacekeeping troops were deported from Haiti for allegedly committing crimes of sexual violence against Haitians, including underage girls.

An individual considered for the Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations should be capable of demonstrating leadership on peace, unblemished by the allegations made against Silva.  If confirmed, Silva’s appointment to the Special Advisory Group would send an appalling message to the world: accused war criminals are legitimate authorities on peace.  Therefore, it is imperative that the world call on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to reject or rescind any proposal to appoint Silva to the Special Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations in the interest of human rights, justice, and accountability.